Emily Anderson felt good about her swipe the moment she saw the Mighty Ducks represented in Lesley Ryder’s profile. A lifelong sports fanatic, it was rare for Anderson to connect with another gay sports fan. So she started messaging Ryder that night.
Naturally, Ryder was at a Dodgers game. The couple starting dating almost immediately.
Nearly four years later, they’re married.
“We started going to games pretty early,” Anderson said. “Then it just ran away from us from there.”
You better bring your bourbon — and sense of humor.
There weren’t any NWSL games on Saturday, so we figured we’d get married. pic.twitter.com/qxGtqe2Q4T— Gal Pal Sports (@GalPalSports) April 18, 2021
Anderson and Ryder started Gal Sports in 2019 with one primary motivation: Make women’s sports coverage more fun. Shamefully, women’s sports receive roughly the same amount of TV news coverage today as they did in the 1980s, according to a recent study published in Communication & Sport. Few newsrooms dedicate full-time resources to women’s sports, instead sending reporter after reporter to stand on NBA courts or outside NFL stadiums.
This dearth of coverage results in biases: only the serious stories receive widespread attention. ESPN is there when members of the USWNT are suing for fair pay, or when women’s college basketball players are housed in subpar facilities for March Madness.
But how about when the NWSL is starting up the Challenge Cup?
“For us, having fun with it was the most important part,” Ryder said. “A lot of the coverage and what you see online with women’s sports is very focused on like, ‘look how inspiring,’ or, ‘look how badass this is,’ which is great. But you know, we contain multitudes. Sometimes we just want to make fun of sports and have a beer and go to the game.”
The Gal Pals are finding a market for their irreverent take on the women’s sports scene. They’re up to over 3,200 followers on Twitter and nearly 150 subscribers on YouTube.
Recently, they’ve been posted videos about the NWSL Challenge Cup, which wraps up May 8. Before the tournament began, they posted a hilarious skit welcoming fans back, offering brief overviews of each team.
There are costume changes, jokes, and yes, drinks from the bar.
“Priority one is having fun,” Anderson said. “Mostly just because that’s what’s important to women’s sports fans.”
That’s not to say Anderson and Ryder ignore important social issues. On the Gal Pal Sports homepage, visitors are invited to donate to an array of anti-racism organizations. As openly gay female athletes — Anderson played college hockey, Ryder was a high school soccer player — the fight for equality and recognition is tantamount to everything they do.
But that includes just letting loose and having fun. Why should men be the only ones who crack jokes about their favorite teams?
“There is something to people who want to laugh at sports and who have been in this women’s sports environment, and are used to how it’s treated,” Anderson said. “They appreciate a laugh about it. We’ve come together over the last year.”